Playing Fact or Fiction with All of MLB's Hottest Buzz

Matthew Smith@@MatthewSmithBRCorrespondent IIIDecember 25, 2014

Playing Fact or Fiction with All of MLB's Hottest Buzz

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    Will Justin Upton sign an extension with the San Diego Padres, or will he test the free-agent market next offseason?
    Will Justin Upton sign an extension with the San Diego Padres, or will he test the free-agent market next offseason?Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    The buzz around MLB this time of year is intense. While it is a blast keeping up with the latest rumors surrounding your favorite team, much of the speculation ends up being nothing more than hearsay.

    Let’s play a round of Fact or Fiction with the latest news.

    To be sure, we can’t cover every rumor that's floating around. Rather, we will focus on a few select pieces of information that have circulated over the past several days. That way, we can stay as current as possible.

    After all, MLB storylines change in an instant. It is the nature of the beast.

    Here is a look at three buzzworthy stories and our take on whether they will come to fruition or become an afterthought in what is a raucous offseason.   

The Cincinnati Reds Will Sign Nori Aoki

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The Cincinnati Reds have had 26 different left fielders since the club traded Adam Dunn to the Arizona Diamondbacks in August 2008, per The Cincinnati Enquirer's C. Trent Rosecrans. And when the 2015 season lifts its lid, there will be yet another new face to add to the list.

    The question pursing the lips of many Reds fans is whether or not it will be Nori Aoki. After all, the Reds have had him in their sights “since the market opened for business,” according to MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon.

    It is an idea rooted in common sense.

    Aoki is a solid defender, heady on the basepaths and has a career .353 on-base percentage. Each one of those is an area in which the Reds need to improve.

    That is especially true when we look at OBP. Last season, for example, the club finished 14th in the National League with a .296 OBP, and the collection of left fielders manager Bryan Price trotted out on a daily basis reached base at a woeful .288 clip, per splits at Baseball-Reference.

    And if we look at where Aoki hits in the lineup, the fit becomes even more apparent.

    In 2014, the Reds' first batter of the game put up a .219/.296/.336 slash line, according to those same splits. Aoki, on the other hand, led off a game 104 times, putting up a .260/.317/.344 slash. That may not seem like a lot, but it is.

    Will general manager Walt Jocketty pull the trigger and bring Aoki on board?

     

    Verdict: Fact

    The needs that Aoki fills are too significant for Jocketty to pass up, and as Rosecrans noted in a separate article, since the club traded Alfredo Simon and Mat Latos, acquiring a left fielder in "free agency seems more likely at this point.” Aoki will sign a two-year deal with a mutual option for a third season.

Justin Upton Will Sign an Extension with the San Diego Padres

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    After landing with the San Diego Padres with one year remaining on the six-year, $50 million deal he signed in advance of the 2010 season, Justin Upton is willing to negotiate an extension—to a degree.

    MLB.com’s Jim Duquette is reporting that Upton’s agent, Larry Reynolds, is open to the idea, “as long as it’s before spring training starts.” How "open" they are is another question altogether.

    In an interview (SoundCloud link via MLBTradeRumors.com) with Jim Bowden and Duquette on MLB Network Radio, Reynolds said that he’ll “never say no to anything” but, to Duquette’s point, stressed that “he won’t get into discussions once” the teams report for spring training. These are hardly words of unabashed enthusiasm.

    Then again, should we expect anything different?

    After all, Upton’s production over the past few seasons would seem to warrant a contract in excess of the one given to Pablo Sandoval (five years, $95 million) this offseason. The outfielder has outperformed Sandoval in several areas over his career, including on-base plus slugging and is far better on the basepaths.

    Verdict: Fiction

    General manager A.J. Preller will want to see how Upton performs in Petco Park before offering fresh money, and the outfielder will want to test the free-agent waters before deciding what’s in his best interest. That is not to say that he is assured to be on a different club in 2016, but he won’t sign on the dotted line this offseason.

The Toronto Blue Jays Will Trade for a Closer

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    M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

    According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Toronto Blue Jays are first looking at trades to solidify the closer’s role. If that proves fruitless, general manager Alex Anthopoulos will consider free agents.

    And make no mistake, there are options—should Anthopoulos be willing to pay.

    The Kansas City Royals have entertained the idea of moving Greg Holland or Wade Davis, per Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star. Jonathan Papelbon is another back-end guy who would figure to be a prime candidate for a trade. Heyman noted that the Blue Jays weren’t interested as recently as November, but the situation has changed.

    The problem with that is that each of those clubs will want an exorbitant return—if they decide to make a move in the first place.

    Simply put, the Royals have no real reason (other than payroll) to move either Holland or Davis, and Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has lofty ambitions when it comes to the talent coming back in any deal, per ESPN.com’s Buster Olney. And given how much value Anthopoulos places on his prospects, the chances he will move a high-level minor leaguer for a one- or two-year rental are slim.

    That said, Anthopoulos may already have his man on the roster.

    Brett Cecil has pitched to a 2.76 ERA with a 2.63 FIP, 1.228 WHIP and averaged 11.5 strikeouts every nine innings over the past two years. He also excels in high-leverage situations, allowing a fine .213/.326/.267 slash line against in such situations last season while surrendering a meager .079/.146/.132 opponent's slash with runners in scoring position, per Baseball-Reference.

    Verdict: Fiction

    When Anthopoulos has exhausted all of his options, he will sign a free-agent closer to a one-year deal laden with incentives (assuming he doesn’t go with a guy like Cecil).

    Unless otherwise noted, all traditional, team and advanced statistics are courtesy of FanGraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com. Contract information pulled from Cot's Contracts. Transaction, injury and game information are courtesy of MLB.com.

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